What Happens When an Air Structure Pops?
Sometimes the simplest questions can really throw you for a loop. This past weekend, I was explaining air-supported structures to my nephew to satiate his inquiring mind. While explaining how a dome is just like a brick building, only filled up with air like a balloon, his eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “but what if someone popped it?”
Waiting for an answer, and thinking quickly on my feet, I responded: “Actually, there are little workmen always ready to scurry over to patch up any hole.” This was a bit of a dismissive answer, to be sure, but it did the trick. He was quite satisfied in knowing that the bubble would not burst.
To an adult, this may seem like a silly question, but it does bring to light some very useful answers that could satiate other minds that have yet to inquire. A more in-depth answer is actually quite technical and can be broken down with multiple answers.
First off, it would take considerable force to actually damage the outer fabric of a dome. Puncture-resistant and anti-tearing technology is infused into each sheet of fabric to protect it from some of the very worst that Mother Nature has to throw at it. Even the seams that attach two sheets of fabric are resistant to failure. The welds themselves are more durable than the fabric that surrounds them. But even the most durable material can fail. Whether it be from force of nature or vandalism, domes need to be prepared for potential failure.
How do they stay up while punctured? Domes have powerful air exchange systems that constantly blow fresh air from the outside into the dome to keep a constant pressure within to hold up the fabric walls. As the system measures the drop in pressure that follows as air escapes, the system will compensate by blowing even more air into the dome. As long as the internal pressure can remain constant, a dome can stay up indefinitely, even with a sizable hole.
We could go into math exercises here, explaining how big a hole would need to be to overcome the system, but engineers have carefully calculated that domes are much more resilient than you’d think. In truth, it would take a rather sizable hole to overcome the air systems capacity to maintain pressure. Think Incredible Hulk sized.
So it can survive with a hole, but what then? Is the damaged dome then left to fight a never-ending battle with gravity and air pressure? Of course not! Farley’s service team is prepared for the worst so even if the Hulk thrashed his way through a dome, a quick patch or repair job could get that air-structure back up.
Ready to jump into action, 24/7, The Farley Group’s service team is second to none in the dome business and prides itself on being ready to scurry into action and fix that hole.
So remember that silly answer that I gave to my nephew? It wasn’t actually too far off the mark.